The Nigerian Copyright Commission (the “Commission”) issued a public notice in the wake of the Court of Appeal’s (Lagos Division) rendering in Microsoft Corporation v. Franike Associates Ltd., which suggested that copyrights in works of U.S origin are unprotected under the Nigerian Copyright Act (the “Act”).
In Microsoft Corporation v. Franike Associates Ltd., Microsoft sued the respondent at the Federal High Court, seeking a declaration that the respondent infringed its copyright in the “Windows” software, and an order restraining the respondent and its agents, privies, or employees from infringing the copyright in the mentioned software and various other products. The respondent subsequently filed a motion seeking various orders, one of which was an order striking out the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The Court obliged, stating that it had no jurisdiction to make a determination on the matter pursuant to s.5(2) of the Act. The Court of Appeal reaffirmed this decision, asserting that the lower court lacked jurisdiction since Microsoft neither pleaded nor presented any certificate from the Commission, attesting to the fact that the U.S is party to an obligation in a treaty or other international agreement to which Nigeria is also a party.
The commission, which seemingly disagrees with the decision of the Court, sought to avoid doubt and reaffirm that in addition to works authored by Nigerians and published first in Nigeria, the Act extends protection to works from over 165 countries, including the U.S that are members of the Berne Convention and other international treaties or agreements which Nigeria is party. Furthermore, by virtue of the United States being party to the obligations arising from the Universal Copyright Convention, the Berne Convention and the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property, works of authors citizen of, domiciled in, or incorporated under the laws of the United States will be entitled to protection under the Act.
In its concluding remarks, the commission stressed its commitment to its obligations under international treaties, distancing itself from the Court’s position. The decision will likely be appealed and with the Commission having a clear stance on the matter, it will be interesting to witness its involvement in future proceedings.
Tracy Ayodele is a J.D Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School